It's been a long nine years, but QuantumScape's new solid state battery for EVs just passed a major milestone on the way to commercialization.

PowerCo Tests QuantumScape’s New Solid State Battery For Volkswagen, And Likes What It Sees

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Volkswagen leveled up its EV battery business in 2022 with its new in-house PowerCo branch, and they have been rather busy since then. In the latest development, PowerCo put a new solid state battery from QuantumScape through its paces. It passed with flying colors, bringing the solid state battery of the future one step closer to now.

The New Solid State Battery From QuantumScape

QuantumScape’s EV battery adventure has been a familiar name on the CleanTechnica circuit. Just a few months ago, our editor Zach Shahan remarked,”We’ve been writing about QuantumScape in what seems like forever.”

Considering the pandemic, it does seem like anything happening before 202o was forever ago. However, as Zach noted, CleanTechnica first took a look at QuantumScape almost exactly nine years ago, in January of 2015, when they first teased the idea of a solid state battery for electric vehicles.

“The tubes have been buzzing over Volkswagen’s recent buy-in with the ultra-mysterious energy storage startup QuantumScape, which industry watchers describe as a direct challenge to Tesla for the EV market,” we wrote.

“So, what’s all the mystery about? If VW is challenging Tesla on EV battery technology, you can assume that VW has gotten wind of some kind of disruptive technology that will leave Tesla’s favored lithium-ion battery behind in the dust,” we added.

So, Was It Really All About The Perovskite?

At the time, we theorized that there was a perovskite angle to Quantumscape’s new solid state battery. A bit of noodling around at — a website which no longer seems to exist — led to a comment thread on QuantumScape’s patent activity.

“And, bingo, sort of,” we wrote. “One of the patents is for this: ‘METHOD FOR FORMING AND PROCESSING ANTIPEROVSKITE MATERIAL DOPED WITH ALUMINUM MATERIAL.’”

Perovskites are another familiar face around the CleanTechnica table. Though more known for their potential to push the cost of solar cells way down, perovskites have also begun to surface in the energy storage field, and that is reflected in the patent application. Here’s a clip:

“Embodiments of the present invention provides thin film and solid state electrolytes for lithium ion batteries. The formation and use thereof of antiperovskite material enables a metallic lithium anode, which increases the capacity and therefore the energy density of any lithium-based electrochemical storage device.”

The Long Journey To A New Solid State Battery

Well, that was exciting. CleanTechnica is reaching out to QuantumScape to see if perovskites are still in play. We didn’t see any hints on their website, but if you spot something drop us a note in the comment thread.

In the meantime, QuantumScape has not been letting the grass grow under its feet all these years, though the company has had its hands full managing expectations.

“Let’s start by reminding readers that QuantumScape’s battery technology is still in the development stage,” the company’s CTO Tim Holme wrote in an explainer posted dated January 14, 2021.

“We are currently testing battery cells with commercial dimensions of 70 x 85mm but only as a single layer, i.e., one cathode, one solid-state separator, and one in-situ formed lithium-metal anode,” he explained.

“As noted in our SEC filings, there is much work ahead of us. Among other tasks, we need to develop multi-layer cells and scale up our manufacturing capabilities,” he added.

Here Comes The Solid State Battery Of The Future

According to Holme’s timetable, series production of the new solid state battery cells could start in 2024. That remains to be seen, but the new PowerCo test indicates that things are running along close to schedule.

The test involved a solid state battery cell consisting of 24 layers, which is the setup for series production. “The next step on the way to series production is now to perfect and scale the manufacturing processes,” Volkswagen explains.

Volkswagen was awfully excited to share the results of the test. “The U.S. company QuantumScape has recently reached an important milestone, which was now confirmed by PowerCo: its solid-state cell has significantly exceeded the requirements in the A-sample test and successfully completed more than 1,000 charging cycles,” Volkswagen stated in a press release on January 3, 2023.

“For an electric car with a WLTP range of 500-600 kilometres, this corresponds to a total mileage of more than half a million kilometres,” they enthused. “At the same time, the cell barely aged and still had 95 percent of its capacity (or discharge energy retention) at the end of the test.”

“QuantumScape’s solid-state cell significantly exceeded these specifications in the latest test,” they reiterated, referring to the target of 700 charging cycles and a 20% maximum capacity loss for new battery cells at this particular stage of development.

Half a million kilometers is equivalent to 310,685.596 miles, which we can round up to 311,000 miles since Volkswagen did say “more than.”

Driving habits vary considerably by age and gender. Here in the US the peak annual average among demographic groups is about 19,000 miles per year, which works out to 16 years’s worth of driving.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the average length of car ownership is currently 8.4 years. So, if the figure of 311,000 miles pans out, it’s likely that a US driver would get tired of their car and sell it long before the battery wears down.

Just saying.

And, Here Come The Gigafactories

As for that thing about challenging Tesla, that also remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Volkswagen and PowerCo have plans.

The QuantumScape solid state battery was tested at the PowerCo labs in Salzgitter, Germany, where the company is also hatching plans for a series of six vertically integrated, soup-to-nuts battery manufacturing centers, from raw materials on through to recycling.

“Each factory will be operated 100 percent on electricity from regenerative sources and will be designed for future closed-loop recycling,” PowerCo explains, with a particular emphasis on recycling end-of-life batteries. The overall plan also involves large-scale stationary energy storage systems, so presumably the recycle angle would apply to that angle, too.

Salzgitter will be the home of PowerCo’s first cell factory, to be followed by another in Valencia and three others at European locations to be named later, with six planned in all. The Salzgitter factory alone will be capable of providing enough batteries for 500,000 EVs per year when fully built out.

The company also dropped a hint about plans for the US, stating that “PowerCo is also already exploring the possibility of further gigafactories in North America.”

Solid state battery fans may have to wait a little longer to get their hands on a Volkswagen with a solid state battery parked inside, but in the meantime they may be able to benefit from Volkswagen’s new “unified cell” strategy for standardizing and simplifying battery design, which is expected to trim costs by up to 50%.

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Image: Solid state battery for electric vehicles, courtesy of Quantumscape.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3236 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey